EU426      Half Unit
The West: Identity and Interests

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Rebecca Bryant COW 2.14


This course is available on the MSc in EU Politics, MSc in EU Politics (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in European Studies: Ideas, Ideologies and Identities, MSc in European Studies: Ideas, Ideologies and Identities (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Relations (Research), MSc in Political Economy of Europe, MSc in Political Economy of Europe (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This is a capped course (30 students). Students are required to obtain permission from the teaching department to take this course.

Course content

This course is in two parts. The first will explore the transformation of a spatial direction into a sociopolitical concept and ideal, in other words the historical emergence of something that we know as ‘the West’. The second part of the course will explore the role that concept has played in narratives of modernity and progress that have defined the postcolonial world. The goal is not only to understand ‘the West’ as a concept, but to understand how, in the context of colonialism and global hierarchies, that concept continues to position a particular geopolitical space in relation to ‘the Rest’. The course will begin by examining ‘the West’ as a discursive concept that comes to signal a particular timespace, referring to a group of countries in Western Europe as the future of ‘the Rest’. In this sense, a ‘modern’ future becomes conceptually entangled with the politics and culture of the West and is often understood in the language of Westernisation. Over the course of the twentieth century, this has become most obvious in the ‘transatlantic alliance’ that incorporates the U.S. into this geohistorical imaginary.

The second part of the course will address the West’s ‘Others’—specifically, ‘the Orient’, ‘the East’, and ‘the Balkans’. As we will see, all of these have proven labile concepts through which the defining features of a ‘West’ have emerged. Moreover, these are features that have been deployed in the context of colonialism, anti-colonialism, and postcolonial statebuilding, especially through projects of modernisation that were also projects of Westernisation. We will examine cases of modernisation and statebuilding in the Middle East, Russia, and the Balkans to tease out projects of reflexive Orientalisation that depended on an antagonistic and/or hierarchical relationship to an Occident—‘the West’. We will also look at the ways in which certain contradictions and paradoxes inherent to projects of modernisation as Westernisation continue to play out in contemporary geopolitics and in ‘Western’ commentators’ characterisation of certain geopolitical conflicts as a ‘clash of civilisations’. This will include lectures on the making of the Post-Cold War world.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Two essays of 1,750-2,000 words; one seminar presentation.

Indicative reading

Cemil Aydin, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought; Riccardo Bavaj and Martina Steber (ed.), Germany and ‘the West’. The History of a Modern Concept; Alastair Bonnett, The Idea of the West: Politics, Culture, History; Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, Occidentalism: A Short History of Anti-Westernism; James G. Carrier, Occidentalism: Images of the West; Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe; Robert D. English, Russia and the Idea of the West; David Gross, From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents; Theodore H. von Laue, The World Revolution of Westernization: The Twentieth Century in Global Perspective; Iver B. Neumann, Uses of the Other: "The East" in European Identity Formation; Jacinta O'Hagan, Conceptualizing the West in International Relations: From Spengler to Said; Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans; Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers; Jonn Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics; Fareed Zakaria, The Post American World; Jonathan Fenby, Will China Dominate The 21st Century?; Jan Zielonka, Is The EU Doomed?


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: European Institute

Total students 2015/16: Unavailable

Average class size 2015/16: Unavailable

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication